Friday, 29 February 2008

West Hampstead Interchange: It's back

Following a tip-off from reader THC that First Capital Connect are reviving the West Hampstead Interchange plans, I've spent the last couple of weeks bugging First Capital Connect's press office, and today they came through with some details:

  • West Hampstead station will be rebuilt with lifts, a new entrance, ticket gates and cycle parking. I'd think the entrance will be further south.
  • The pavement on the west side of West End Lane will be widened and the road crossing to the Jubilee Line will be improved.
  • The North London Line station will get a "modified entrance" and lifts.
  • There will be two "associated mixed use developments" to pay for it, which they also say will "improve the public realm".
The timescale given is 2011. In the mean time, they plan platform canopy renewals, extra information screens and and canopies over the ticket machines (and one extra) during this year.

This is far less ambitious then the previous plans, which were championed by Chiltern Railways, and potentially included a rebuilt tube station with Chiltern and Metropolitan Line platforms, relocating the NLL and Thameslink stations to the east side of the road, and an off-street interchange bridge between them.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Oxford Street Tram

At a debate last night Ken repeated his ambition to replace the buses on Oxford Street with trams:

If re-elected I intend to start installing a tram running the length of Oxford Street. There are some factors which pose difficulties but we have thought about it and there are ways of overcoming them. It will either be a shuttle tram or will be linked to the Cross River Tram

We would demolish the gyratory system [at Marble Arch], handing part of it back to green land and building two developments on part of it which will fund the project. People getting a taxi would have to use the roads running north and south of Oxford Street. We would phase the buses out slowly and maybe run some along Wigmore Street.

You can find a few more details in this Evening Standard piece, which mentions a £200m cost and a 2012-18 timescale. The article quotes statistics from this New West End Company press release, who sponsored the debate, and are major backers of the proposal. Ken discussed much the same idea in 2006.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Replacement bus ELP gone after 63 days

I was passing through Canada Water today and saw this:

Sad news for fans of prog rock, white rap, and barely used shuttle buses for which it's quicker to walk or take the normal bus.

New DLR railcars part 2

I got a telephoto lens in the post this week, so I've been back to Beckton to try it out, and got a much better shot of what the front end of the new DLR cars looks like:

They must now have at least three delivered, as the one I saw last week was number 104, and the very first delivered was allegedly 105.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Imminent changes to Oyster PAYG

London Travelwatch have posted minutes from a meeting where TfL discussed how Oyster PAYG is working out on London Overground, and related matters. Highlights:

  • The elimination of Cheap Day Returns is causing problems with fare anomalies at Richmond, Watford Junction, West Hampstead and others. They plan to reintroduce them from Richmond in February and do some unspecified fiddling in May (This should please diamondgeezer).
  • First Class fares are to make a comeback for journeys where London Midland or Southern have it available.
  • Richmond to Stratford on Oyster PAYG is still charged as via Z1, regardless of route. They plan to review anomalies like this in May, and "there are also likely to be two different fares depending on the route", though I've no idea how that will work.
  • Oyster PAYG take-up and revenue in general has been much higher than expected.
  • There's no Oyster ticket machine at Clapham Junction due to objections from South West Trains, so a local newsagent is doing a brisk trade (this was thought to be resolved in October, but apparently not).
  • First Great Western's rollout of Oyster PAYG to all its London stations may happen "sooner than previously anticipated." Ealing Broadway to Paddington is due "shortly" ("Spring" according to this map)

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Even more new trains for London Overground

TfL have put out a press release discussing a change in the way the London Overground Electrostars will be financed - they've essentially sold them to a bank and are leasing them back, which improves their cashflow and gives them the option of walking away in 2027 and buying new ones. Anyway, hidden at the bottom is this note:

In its final configuration, it is intended the fleet will comprise 54 4-carriage trains
The original order was for 44 trains, a mix of 3 and 4 car trains and a total of 152 carriages. They then ordered three more whole trains plus extra cars to make the fleet all 4-car, taking the total to 188. The latest news adds an apparent 7 more trains and brings the total to 216.

A brief mention of a follow-on order did appear in the recent board papers, but this the first indication of its size.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

The new DLR rolling stock

The first car of new DLR "B07 stock"* was delivered nearly two months ago, but unless my Google skills are failing me no pictures have appeared online yet. So I've been to Beckton to get some myself.

[ Update: A much better close up ]

From this distance at least it doesn't look as radical as in the artist's impression. The only obvious external differences are the curvier front end and full height windows in the doors. The livery has gained a black stripe along the windows and light blue bits on the swooshes. They have a mockup of new front end design at the London Transport Museum, which shows it better than I could.

A public exhibition of the new units is planned for "this month", and some of them should be in service during the first half of this year. The new units are to expand rather than replace the existing fleet, necessitated by the opening of the City Airport/Woolwich Arsenal branch and the plans for 3-car running. The latter is being partly paid for with Olympic funds.

[If you're determined to see this for yourself, it's currently parked towards the southwest corner of Beckton depot. Turn left (east) out of Gallions Reach DLR and follow Armada Way around the corner, and it should be right in front of you]

* Or B09 or C09, depending on who you believe.

Friday, 15 February 2008

North London Line upgrade track layout

A few months ago Modern Railways printed a diagram of the new track layout for the rebuilt North London Line, and it's made its way online here. It's a bit small but does the job. The top diagram is the current layout, the middle one shows the new layout, and the bottom is a rejected alternate option.

The four stations shown are Camden Road, Caledonian Road & Barnsbury, Highbury & Islington and Canonbury, with existing platforms shown in grey and new platforms in blue. The East London Line (yellow) will have dedicated tracks all the way to Highbury. Note there's little possibility of a regular service to further west. Camden Road will have a reversing platform in the middle, allowing extra trains to be run between there and Stratford, increasing frequency on the busiest part of the line.

The should all be done by January 2011. According to the latest TfL board papers, the construction contract will be advertised this month, and the budget is £326m, with £82m coming from the Olympic Delivery Authority.

[Thanks to Paul Scott for digging this up]

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Northern Line split

A TfL spokesman responds to the Hendon Times over claims by a Barnet council leader that the Northern Line will be split in future:

"At the moment, Camden Tube Station cannot cope with being a major interchange as it would need major remodelling. Regarding segregation, there are therefore absolutely no plans. No decision has been made and there is no funding in the current investment programme."
That's not a denial, is it? The current investment programme only covers spending until 2010, and they're on their way to getting planning permission for the remodelling of Camden Town.

The evidence isn't just circumstantial - the split of the Northern Line is explicitly included in TfL's transport vision for 2025:
A segregation of services would deliver simpler service patterns on the line. This will allow more trains to be run through both the West End and City branches – enabling 30tph services on the central London branches. This will provide roughly 25 per cent extra capacity and crowding relief on these busy sections.
Even now, the line is effectively split at Kennington and Mill Hill East, and only a couple of weeks ago they instituted a split at Camden Town (see picture) in the morning peak, though northbound only to get some of the benefits of segregation without sending too many commuters through the station's passageways.

Not that I'm trying to support the councillor's campaign. A split is the number one solution to the overcrowding and unreliability he complains about. Just as soon as the signalling is upgraded ca. 2011 and Camden Town is fixed sometime after that, a split is inevitable.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Gospel Oak to Barking plans

I attended the GOBLIN user group meeting last night to hear form the LOROL people (they pronounce it "laurel", charmingly enough). A few things were mentioned that I don't think have made it onto the internet before:

  • They originally planned to obtain three car trains, but the short eastbound platform at South Tottenham nixed this
  • They plan to rip out the end seat of the appalling 3+2 seating to make it 2+2 plus a wide aisle for standing. This will start as soon as they get approval that the trains can take the extra weight of standees.
  • The new rolling stock will have "30% more capacity" per train. Each carriage is longer and doesn't have the big guard's area behind each cab.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

February Board Papers: Miscellaneous notes

I've already posted separately about ELL Phase 2, the Southern franchise takeover and Shepherd's Bush Overground but there are a lot of other things worth noting:

  • Another follow-on order for new London Overground Electrostars is planned for this month.
  • Roll out of Oyster PAYG to the whole London rail network is still pencilled in for next January.
  • The renaming of Shepherd's Bush (H&C) to Shepherd's Bush Market will happen when Shepherd's Bush (Central Line) reopens, not when Wood Lane opens (which may be earlier) as previously announced. There's likely only weeks in it.
  • The King's Cross St Pancras tmporary tunnel is known as the 'Hockey stick'.
  • Royal assent for the Crossrail Bill is expected by the end of July. A Lords committee will consider petitions from 19 Feb until mid May.
  • Purchase time at tube ticket machines is down to "0.28 minutes".
  • The East London Line officially ceased to be a London Underground line on 22 January, when they finished clearing their things and handed it over to contractors.
  • Replacement signalling (and ultimately Automatic Train Operation) is due on the Jubilee and Northern Lines by December 2009 and September 2011 respectively, with the first part of the Jubilee commissioned this October.
  • A tender for new Piccadilly Line trains has just been issued.
  • The first S-Stock train is due for delivery for testing in January 2009.
  • The first new DLR train was delivered on 22 December. The whole first 'Woolwich Arsenal' batch is due in service by September, with a follow-on 'Olympic' batch coming next.
  • They're still deciding how to progress the Cross River Tram scheme.
  • They're pressing on with Greenwich Waterfront Transit and East London Transit, and are due to start October 2009 and July 2011 respectively,
You can read more in the board papers PDF.

ELL phase 2: TfL want DfT funding

December's board papers contained a suggestion TfL could get Phase 2 of the East London Line extension paid for to mitigate the effects of the Thameslink project. This month's board papers are a bit more aggressive about it:

The Thameslink Programme will result in fewer terminating platforms being available at London Bridge from the start of construction works in 2012. As a result, London Bridge will have less capacity. The current South London Line (SLL) service, which runs between London Bridge and Victoria, is very likely to be removed from London Bridge; this is most unsatisfactory and requires mitigation. ELL Phase 2b will provide a 4tph service along the SLL between Clapham Junction and Dalston Junction assisting delivery of the Thameslink Programme as a link to the Docklands (via Canada Water) and City (via Shoreditch High Street Station) is retained. A report detailing the benefits of ELL Phase 2 for the Thameslink Programme has been prepared and funding discussions have commenced with the DfT.
Phase 2 is the currently unfunded branch from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction, mostly along the South London Line. See the dotted orange line on this map.

Southern franchise takeover

A little while ago The Times published an article last year claiming the Mayor was planning to "take over most of Southern", and little has been heard since. The reality outlined in this month's board papers seems far less ambitious:

The Mayor and the Secretary of State have discussed the opportunity presented by the expiry of the Southern TOC franchise in 18-months time for TfL to take a greater role in its future. TfL and the DfT will now work on the extent to which the inner suburban services, trains and stations can be enhanced to the standard of Overground and how TfL can be given a greater role in the running of the future franchise. From the start of the new Overground services from West Croydon and Crystal Palace in June 2010, stations between these stations and New Cross Gate will be staffed and managed by London Overground. The South London Line (SLL) stations could also transfer when Overground services commence upon completion of East London Line Phase 2b to Clapham Junction, subject to agreement on funding.
So either they're keeping quiet about what their ambitions are, or there's not much serious change planned.

Shepherd's Bush Overground: Wall to be moved

This month's board papers contain the first ever direct discussion by TfL of what happened and Shepherd's Bush, and what they plan to do about it:

A new station at Shepherd’s Bush on the West London Line (WLL) has been constructed by Westfield together with Network Rail, prior to TfL taking over responsibility for Overground services. It was hoped that this would be opened in time for the start of London Overground services, launched by the Mayor on the 12 November. However, the north-bound platform has insufficient width, given projected passenger levels. Dialogue has taken place with Westfield and Network Rail with a view to rectifying this situation by moving the platform retaining wall and widening access to the platform. It is hoped to provide an opening date once the project plan has been completed. It is estimated that the work will take 4 months following agreement to provide.
That puts the earliest opening possible opening date as mid-Summer.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Stratford International DLR photos

User Class 50 on Flickr has photos of progress on the DLR station at Stratford International. One shows the station box close up (ignore the mentions of Crossrail in the caption). For context, check out this wider shot and the project map.

The station is deep inside the Olympic exclusion zone, so you're not going to see photos like this very often.

Camden Market fire: London Overground unscathed

There's been some confusion over whether last night's fire in Camden did any damage to the North London Line. I happened to be in Camden last night so I couldn't resist going for a look.

I've made a map showing the area affected. The bridge in the foreground carries the North London Line and is a safe distance from the fire. The bridge in the centre is the freight link from Camden Road and South Hampstead via Primrose Hill, which was in the middle of it.

Update: I've just been through on the already-reopened North London Line, and the other viaduct looks fine.

DLR to Shoreditch and Farringdon

In 2004, the DLR commissioned a study into possible future routes called "Horizon 2020". They seem to have quietly forgotten about it, at least publicly, but I spotted a mention of the results in this Hackney Council report:

Three schemes remain under review in spring 2006. These are Bank – Farringdon, Bank – Liverpool Street – Shoreditch (Bishopsgate Goodsyard site), and Bank – Charing Cross.
The Charing Cross scheme has been widely discussed and even appears on one of the Crossrail maps. The other two are complete news to me. The route to Farringdon would surely involve the abandoned Thameslink tracks from Moorgate, and the route to Liverpool St would be a logical extension of the overrun tunnel that already points northeast.

[Update: A commenter prompted me to check where the Bank overrun tunnel goes. Although at least one diagram shows it heading for Liverpool Street, I've found several credible sources suggesting it heads northwest torwards Moorgate. My mistake. ]

Of course I have no idea if any of these are still being considered, but it's interesting to know they were at one point.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Crossrail to Reading safeguarded

The government have made an announcement regarding whether Crossrail should terminate at Reading rather than Maidenhead.

I have now decided to safeguard additional land between Maidenhead and Reading. While I am clear that Crossrail services will terminate at Maidenhead and have no plans to extend them to Reading, this measure gives the flexibility to be able to extend Crossrail in the future, should there be a business case.
While there's a prevailing opinion that Reading is the more "logical" place for services to terminate, the Crossrail people argue that it would be too expensive since "the first station where Crossrail would be likely to pick up considerable passenger traffic would be at Maidenhead". However, the biggest expense is the rebuilding of Reading station, which is happening anyway, making some regard an extension as the inevitable next step. There'll be various local, semi-fast and fast services in addition to Crossrail, so most passengers will be well-served whatever happens.

At the other end of the line, the statement mentions an extension from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet in Kent is already safeguarded. The safeguarding actually continues all the way to Hoo Junction on the other side of Gravesend, where a depot would be located. They say they're considering updating the safeguarding in some way, though there's no mention of how or why.

[via uk.railway]

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Wood Lane station progress

Continuing my run of posts about Shepherd's Bush, here's a picture of construction progress on the new Wood Lane station, on the Hammersmith & City Line at the opposite corner of the shopping centre from the other stations.

Due to open November this year, looks like it will. No snarking about platform width.

Shepherd's Bush Overground: still arguing

I received an email from TfL today that all but confirms my suspicions about the station:

There are indeed some issues regarding the safety of the narrow northbound platform which must be resolved before the station can open. London Overground Rail Operations Limited, the operator of London Overground, have identified potential risks to passengers as trains pass at high speed. As the station is owned by Network Rail and is being developed by Westfield (the developers of the shopping centre), it is their responsibility to ensure that safety requirements are met.
What's implied is that Network Rail and Westfield are (or were) happy with the station as it is. The "built too narrow" farce angle may make a good headline, but it appears there's a genuine dispute about whether or not the platforms are safe.

As to what progress there is and when it might open:
Please be re-assured that TfL and LOROL are in regular contact with both parties, with a view to resolving these matters as soon as possible. At the moment, frustratingly, we are unable to confirm an opening date. London Rail has designated a senior manager to monitor developments, and both the Project Director at Westfield and the Network Rail director with responsibility for this station are working closely with him to determine a solution.
There's a tiny bit of hope something's happening. I had a look last weekend and nothing's changed. The current wording on TfL's project page is "due to open shortly".

(The picture is the station as shown on the shopping centre hoarding, where it has no platforms at all)

[Latest: The wall will be moved, taking at least four months]

Monday, 4 February 2008

Shepherd's Bush (Central Line) refurbishment works

Shepherd's Bush station on the Central Line is closed until mid October for modernisation. What are they actually doing?

This factsheet goes over the details. Basically the plan during the closure is:

  • Demolish the existing building
  • Remove the escalators and install new ones while the building isn't in the way
  • Build a much larger new building, with a large entrance facing east the bus and Overground station, rather than the narrow entrance facing the street.
  • Get started on refurbishing the platform area
Missing from the current plans is the installation of lifts and any other below ground works. This page describes a possible scheme where two new shafts will be dug down to the existing horizontal ventilation tunnel, which will be enlarged for passenger use. The west shaft will connect to the station building and contain a lift, while the east shaft will contain a new set of emergency stairs. A second lift will connect this shaft to the platforms, coming out between them, part way along. You can sort of it see how this works in this picture [hosted by Always Touch Out], though not really.

This news article says London Underground "admitted they now had no plans" to install lifts, and the blurb on TfL's site goes no further than saying they're "evaluating a congestion relief and step-free access scheme". On the other hand, this article says the new shafts have already been created. So I've no idea what's going on.

One thing to note is that, as far as I can tell, there are no plans to enlarge or significantly alter the existing escalator, stair and platform arrangements during any of these works, beyond basic refurbishment.

(btw I don't buy the conspiracy theories on this. If TfL's claims about needing to close the station to replace the escalators are even slightly true, then making it coincide with the station building being out of the way and getting it done before the shopping centre opens is such a forehead-slappingly sensible plan I'm shocked they ever proposed anything else)

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Shepherd's Bush is closed

East London Line progress pictures

Time for another look at East London Line construction progress. You might want to look at the last one and the map of Shoreditch first.

We'll start with the dreaming spires of Dalston Junction - it recently gained a huge assortment of cranes, drills and piling rigs poking out of the station cutting. The trackbed has been tarmacced to allow road access, via a gate on the north-south bit of Richmond Road. They've only just started serious work here, and given the complex plan for the site it's likely to be the last bit to be completed, determining when the line opens.

Next, Haggerston station. They've demolished a couple of viaduct arches to build the station entrance.

The site of Hoxton station. Nothing much to see yet.

The end of the old viaduct in Shoreditch. A new viaduct will curve round to the right, leading to...

The bridge over Shoreditch High Street. The rebar for the abutments on either side is almost complete (left photo, surrounded by scaffolding), and a big bit of bridge deck has been delivered to the site. It'll be very similar in design and size to the new bridge over Regent's Canal between Haggerston and Hoxton.

After going through Shoreditch High Street station (which hasn't changed much since last month) and crossing Brick Lane, we come to the bridge over the Great Eastern Main Line. The abutments were just frames last month, but now they're solid concrete.

The massive framework for the bridge looms over the old Shoreditch station, with Weaver House in the distance. It's a lot like the bridge over Kingsland Road, but twice as long and, carrying only two tracks, half as wide.

Next Installment (March 2008) >>

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Croxley Rail Link to be rejected again shortly

Or, if you're an optimist like the Watford Observer, it just "edged closer to approval". Hertfordshire County Council have just rolled the dice once more by submitting the project's business plan to the Department for Transport, in their latest bid to get the required funding.

They want £95 million to divert the Watford branch of the Metropolitan Line to Watford Junction, via the disused Croxley Green branch. It requires 500m of new connecting viaduct and 1.5 miles of replacement track on the branch line, figures very similar to the East London Line's northern extension (and likewise involves the probable closure of an unlikely looking existing tube station).

The project is not terribly exciting, completely irrelevant to Londoners, and doesn't have a great chance of happening. But it is the only extension of the tube network on the table right now.